Canonical Offers Sale of Proprietary Codecs for Ubuntu

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, has decided to offer it’s users the option of purchasing proprietary media codecs. It doesn’t matter if the users purchase their copy of Ubuntu, download it or bought a computer pre-installed with Ubuntu.

There is an animated dicussion going on about this news at slashdot and other places.

Canonical has definitely opened a can of worms with this move and we will have to wait and see how the open source community in general reacts to this decision. This decision to sure get a lot of attention by the opensource community.

Canonical, it should be made clear, is not going to develop proprietary codecs. Canonical is only streamlining the process of installing those codecs and charging a small amount for it. Most of the actual codecs are developed by a company called Fluendo and the DVD playback is being offered through a version of Cyberlink’s PowerDVD software.

I should clarify that Fluendo and Cyberlink have both been making the said software since a long time and Linux users have always had the option of purchasing PowerDVD or Fluendo’s media codecs.

Software codecs and DRM are a touchy issue. It is sad that a user with legally purchased media cannot play it on a computer, unless he/she also purchases software to play it. Sad but true.

Ubuntu has also always offered a way for users to easily install most media codecs, for free, using a relatively smooth process, but depending on your country of residence, that could have been illegal. Now, all Ubuntu is giving to its users is an option to, instead, purchase those codecs legally and be able to enjoy whatever media they own or come across on the Internet.

Ubuntu is not stopping the users from downloading illegal codecs and using them on their machines. The open nature of the operating system is still there. The option of purchasing this software just makes it easier for the non-geeks and paranoids among us to be able to enjoy the benefits of Linux without getting bogged down by the technicalities.

Legal codecs on Linux also make it simpler for system integrators to offer a decent out-of-the-box multimedia experience. The geeks among us who are used to the free and open nature of Linux can still download and install whichever codecs they want, legal or not.

I think this is a win-win situation, and not a compromise, for all the parties involved – Canonical, Ubuntu and the users.

I know there will be always be purists who will rally against Canonical for this decision and I’m sure the company is ready for some flak, but if Linux has to compete with Mac OS X and Windows, they had to make a start somewhere and this looks to be the right way to go.

Friday Linkfest #1

So, I’ve been reading a lot. Two thousand seven hundred and ninety seven items in the last month, or so Google Reader tell me.

While I’m at it, I decided that I might as well share some stuff with you guys. After all, reading is a good thing, right ?

Here is a round up of some stuff that I’ve been reading from around the web.

Humour

Close shave with insurance

Sarcastic and Funny account of a person’s struggle to get a medical checkup done to get an insurance.

Travel

Experiencing an Asia beyond China and India

Experience Asia in the Big Apple.

Post-Olympics Beijing To Traffic: “Welcome Back!”

The olympics are over and the traffic and jams are back to this large Asian metropolis.

Technology

What would I do if I was Steve Balmer

Interesting thoughts on helping Microsoft get on the SaaS bandwagon.

Yet Another MSI-Wind review

Those netbooks have started to look really interesting. Read on for a 10-week review of the Akoya Mini aka. MSI Wind.

Email is Dead and the Counter-Argument

Ah !! The age old debate. Question to all reading this: Does anyone of you think that Email is dead ?

Life

Terrorism in India – Paying the Price for Long Time Complacency

Well thought out post on the problem of terrorism in India.

Shiv Mandir at Gulmarg

A reminder of the excellent time we had at Gulmarg last month.

The red building in the picture is a Shiva temple, probably the only one in the country with a Muslim priest.

This temple has been featured in a number of bollywood movies and the guides around the place will happily fill you in with the names even if you aren’t interested :-)

Gulmarg is also the venue for the most famous winter festival in India in which hordes of international tourists also participate. Gulmarg is covered with snow during that time and the slopes are fit for skiing and other winter sports. The festival is probably the only time the locals make some decent money and it can be quite hard to find hotel rooms, so if you’re planning to visit around that time, book early.

It is a pity that such a beautiful place has been all but ruined by the ongoing militancy in the valley.

The Zoya Factor

Technorati Tags: ,,zoya factor

The Zoya Factor is a laugh-out-loud funny novel. People from Delhi especially of Karol Bagh origin (like me) will certainly enjoy how amazingly dilli-types this book is ! Phrases like “My heart was dhak-dhaking”, “dhik-chik dhik-chik music”,”so uncool”, “loathing 98 percent; lust 2 percent” or “ok baba” add to the punjabi tadka & explains the emotions the author is feeling so much better than plain ol’ English.

This, more than anything, is what make this book such a good read.
For instance, the manner in which the author describes the Karol Bagh types
is particularly funny. The following two excerpts from the novel should give you an idea about the dry sarcasm of the main lead, that tickels your senses.

“I obsess a little about being ‘cool’, because, hello, when people ask me where I stay I have to look them in the eye, smile brightly and say ‘Karol Bagh’ with casual unconcern…..

….Because Karol Bagh has a soul.

It may be a loud, expansive, dhik-chik dhik-chik music-loving soul that died and became a soul because its arteries clogged with too much high-cholestrol, ghee-laden Punjabi food, but it’s a soul nonetheless.
Think lousy old Golf Links has Soul ?
Naah !!

The plot reloves around , you guessed it … Zoya … who works in an advertising agency, waiting for her first big shoot with a big bollywood actor … SRK … which she has to leave half way to do a shoot with the Indian Cricket team … one thing leads to another & she becomes the lucky mascot for the team … hence the name, The Zoya Factor.

TZF is full of characters that every Indian can relate to. Zoravar, Eppa, Rinku Chachi, Vishal, Monita even Sanks are all people you all would have met somewhere. It has all the ingredients of a masala Bollywood flick – SRK, Cricket, Cola wars, superstitions, boy-meets-girl, foreign locations…Block Buster !!

The ‘Yang’ of the book is that it’s a bit too long (the second half is a bit of a drag)  and the story is predictable at times. Inspite of this, I quite like the Writing style of the author.

All-in-all The Zoya Factor is a fun read as all chick-lit type books are supposed to be.

Final Word: This Will definitely make a great Bollywood style chick-flick… KJo  are you listening ? :)

(About the author – Anuja Chauhan went to school in Meerut, Delhi and Australia. She has worked in advertising for over fourteen years and has created many popular ad campaigns including ‘Nothing Official About it’, ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’ and ‘Oye Bubbly’ for brand Pepsi.

She is currently the Executive Creative Director and Vice-President at J. Walter Thompson Advertising.)

Soul Cafe, MG Road – Bangalore

soul Soul cafe is a swanky looking, hookah-serving, cafe on MG road. On any given day, one can see hordes of young ones sitting in the crowded open air seating area of the place, taking drags from a hookah like no tomorrow (and of course with each drag, posing for the mandatory mug shot taken using a shitty low res cell-phone camera).

My wife and I have been thinking about paying the place a visit since the last few months and when we were at MG road this afternoon, we finally decided to have lunch at the place.

Well, the big banner announcing a buffet for Rs. 222 /-  did play it’s part in luring us. I’m not a hookah lover, nor am I a lover of Bangalore’s polluted air and so we decided to sit inside in air conditioned comfort.

Except for one thing. The air conditioning system was switched off to save electricity probably and it was actually quite suffocating inside. When will the restaurants in Bangalore understand that switching off the air conditioning only makes the closed room even worse to be in ? And this is not the first time I’ve seen a restaurant in Bangalore do this. On second thoughts, we should have sat outside.

We were offered a choice of place to sit, not because they were being nice to us, but because the place was empty. Except for one family. That should’ve given me some hint.

We took our places and were handed over the menu. Within a minute a captain was upon us asking us to order. I’d seen some kids drinking beer outside but there was no alcohol on the menu, so I asked the captain if they serve beer and he said yes. And added in a low voice, would you also like vodka, rum or anything else ? I asked for the wine menu and was told they don’t have one.

I asked which Beer do they serve and he took a while to remember the name. “Curlsssberg – A german beer” is what he had to say. I said bring it on. My wife ordered an Orange Iced tea.

The drinks were at our table in some time and the captain was again on our head asking for our main course order. He suggested that we go with the Prawn Sizzler, another dish that wasn’t on the menu. And I said “OK, we’ll take one of that”. The captain promptly notes down “Two Prawn sizzlers. Anything else Sir ?”. I said:

“I want only one of that. Get me a plate of garlic bread also”.

“With cheese ?”

“No”.

“May I suggest the sea food sizzler ?”

“No. I only want one sizzler. Thank you. (Getting irritated) If I want to order something else. I’ll look at the menu and order later”.

“Thank you Sir.”

“No. Thank YOU (for leaving us alone)”.

Now, I’m not usually rude to waiters. After all they’re only doing their job. But, I go to restaurants for the food. And while I appreciate choice, I’ve learnt enough to trust restaurants in Bangalore and so I like to read about what I’m eating.

Anyway, both the wife and I waited with some anxiety for the food to be served. The captain came to us … yet again and asked me who would be eating the sizzler .. to which I replied, we’ll share … The guy didn’t know what to say. He looked at me and said:

“But there are only three prawns in the dish, Sir ?”

“So ?”

“I think you should order something else.”

“Get me the sizzler and if we’ll decide if we want more.”

By this time, I was thoroughly irritated with the waiter.

Long story short, food came, we ate, nothing to write home about and and we asked for the cheque.

The sizzler turned out to be the most expensive item on the bill. Atleast double the price that I was expecting it to be. Now, I don’t know if that really was the price because … well, the dish wasn’t on the menu anyway.

So, I paid the bill, killed a small cockroach which I saw walking on my table and walked away. Needless to say, the guys didn’t get any tip from me.

I ate a chicken roll from a nearby stall since I was still hungry after the disgusting meal.

Point is, I’ll never be visiting the place again. And I’d suggest that you guys also don’t. The place just isn’t worth it. The food is mediocre at best, overpriced, service shabby and cleanliness non-existent. Have I already said the food is mediocre at best ?

Cola wars are out …

There is something about watching prime time television. Even if the programs are crappy (which they usually are, wonder why they call them prime-time !), you can still smile looking at the advertisements.

Some of my favorite ones are the Hutch ads. It’s a good thing that even after buying over Hutch, Vodafone has kept the tradition of simple and to the point advertising !

• “You and I in this beautiful world…”
• The Pug…
• Canada walle Chacha jee,amrica walli mausi, benaras walle mausa jee and so on.. ab rishton ko millon mein napna chod do..
• Chota Credit with a drop of ink goes a long way during exams…
• Help! The pug licking the stamp…

I think all the Hutch ads stand out as there is some serious application of creativity in each one of the series. The AirTel ads featuring Madhavan and Vidya Balan have come out really well too. The cola wars are a thing of the past. The best advertisements are in the telecom industry now.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the series of ads being done by Apna Aamir Khan… Samsung, Monaco, Tata Sky have nothing memorable. The Monaco Aamir Khan Adv … the ‘Dimag ki Batti Bhujadey’ concept is done to death. Personally I think they need to jallo a new batti. One would expect more from such brands and Aamir Khan.

WordPress 2.6.2 released

This is a heads up post for all wordpress users. WordPress 2.6.2 has been released and is recommended upgrade for those of you who allow open registrations on their blog/website.

From the release announcement

Stefan Esser recently warned developers of the dangers of SQL Column Truncation and the weakness of mt_rand().  With his help we worked around these problems and are now releasing WordPress 2.6.2.  If you allow open registration on your blog, you should definitely upgrade.  With open registration enabled, it is possible in WordPress versions 2.6.1 and earlier to craft a username such that it will allow resetting another user’s password to a randomly generated password.  The randomly generated password is not disclosed to the attacker, so this problem by itself is annoying but not a security exploit.  However, this attack coupled with a weakness in the random number seeding in mt_rand() could be used to predict the randomly generated password.  Stefan Esser will release details of the complete attack shortly.  The attack is difficult to accomplish,  but its mere possibility means we recommend upgrading to 2.6.2.

I don’t allow registrations on my blog here but would still be upgrading to the latest version asap. It doesn’t hurt to be on the cutting edge, does it ;)

Unix 101: Manipulating files – Copying, moving, deleting

This post is the next in a series of posts we’re doing on Unix. The aim of the series is to get our readers familiar with the basics of working on a Unix or a Linux system.

Uptil now we’ve learned a bit about how the Unix system works and how to navigate around the filesystem. We can now login to a unix system and start viewing the files and moving around between different directories. We also know a little about processes on a Unix system.

What next ?

This post will teach you about different file manipulation operations. By file manipulation, I mean, commands to copy, move or delete files. Since, on a Unix/Linux system everything is a file, the commands that we learn about today can also be used to work with directories, with some changes.

Unix commands have a reputation for being terse and short, which goes back to the old days when all input to a system was through some complex circuit manipulations or the computer had to be fed punch cards to recognize input. It made sense to use short commands for the purpose back then and modern Unixes/Linuxes have just carried on the tradition.

Take for example, the command to copy a file, cp, the syntax for which is:

# cp <sourcefile> <destinationfile>

For eg:

# cp test1 test2

The above command will just make a copy named test2 of the file named test1. Simple, isn’t it ?

Continuing the tradition of terse commands is the command to move files, mv.

# mv <sourcefile> <destinationfile>

For eg:

# mv test1 testdirectory/test2

The above command will copy the file named test1 to the directory named testdirectory and will change the name of the file to test2. If you don’t give the name of the destination file (test2 in the example), the file will be moved with the same name as the source.

The last command that we’ll be talking about today is the remove command, or rm. rm is the command to use when you want to remove a file from the system.

# rm <filename>

For example,

# rm test1

The above command will delete the file named test1. Use the command with care, though, since unlike Windows there is no concept of a recycle bin in Unix/Linux and any file that you delete using rm will be gone forever and you cannot change your mind later.

The above commands also work on directories, since a directory is also a file in Unix, a special file.

That was a basic overview of the cp, mv and rm commands. As always, I’d urge you to RTFM (read the fine manual – man pages in this case) and try out these commands for yourself. The only way to understand Unix is to use it.

I really hope this series of posts is benefitting atleast someone out there. I would love to hear some feedback from you guys on how I can improve my next posts and also what would you like me to cover.

Bonsai – Connaught Place, New Delhi

On our last trip to Delhi, we went for drinks to Bonsai. Bonsai, one of the more recent additions to Delhi’s burgeoning list of Oriental restaurants, has a menu with an eclectic mix of Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Indonesian cuisines.

Located in the inner circle of Connaught Place, just above Café Coffee Day, it looks deceptively small from the outside, but is nice and roomy once you step in. There is an open-air extension, but we decided to sit inside because of Delhi’s humidity. The ambience and decor was pleasant. The restaurant was well lit and the lemon grass fragrance in the air gave it an oriental feel.

Aside from the Beer being served only in pint size (which doesn’t have the same appeal to a pitcher/ draught), the cocktails were superb. We had a couple of starters of which the Prawn Tempura (395) is worth a mention.

The one good thing about Bonsai – the helpings are anything but miniature. Our experience however was of a mixed platter, with some great items and some that were eminently forgettable. It is the kind of place where you can really talk over a couple of drinks.

Rodeo – Connaught Place, New Delhi

Located in the A block, inner circle of Connaught Place, Rodeo can be classified as an authentic Mexican restaurant, or atleast as authentic a mexican restaurant can be in Punjabi food infested Delhi. With a relaxed, comfy and cozy atmosphere, it is an old favourite with the veterans of Delhi’s pub scene.

The bar has a ’wild west’ theme and though the restaurant just got a make over, it still retains the feel of an old saloon. The waiters in the restaurant are dressed as cowboys and the service is quite average. If you need some head-banging music to go with a beer in your hand, this isn’t the place for you. We have been going there for years & the ambience, quality of food, waiters, music haven’t changed a bit and that is what I like best about it !

With their speciality in Mexican and Italian cuisine, they also serve Draught beer. We ordered the Nachos platter (150-250) which is unquestioningly the best dish there, along with Fajitas for starters. Our main course was the POLLO AL GREQUE, a chicken dish (375) which to our dissatisfaction was very dry. There is a buffet from Monday to Friday at RODEO (C.P.) and Friday to Sunday at RODEO (Gurgaon). The buffet is a great opportunity to get those flavours at a down to earth cost.

Overall, Rodeo is a quaint little place which offers clean good food for those who just like to unwind with a good drink.